We are now entering our third month of “shelter in place” or “stay at home”, here in Illinois. This pandemic has changed life as we know it and no one has gone untouched. People are suffering on many levels, not just because of illness directly related to COVID-19 infection. Physical well-being and emotional health are being negatively impacted in many ways.
If we are to believe the dark humor being shared on social media, lack of physical exercise has become an even bigger problem for Americans than it was prior to the pandemic. We overweight, sedentary citizens are becoming even bigger and lazier than we were before! As most everyone is aware, physical fitness staves off physical disease and illness. So, it seems one consequence of the pandemic, should this slothful trend continue, could be increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, as well as a multitude of other conditions egged on by being sedentary and obese. Thankfully, this is a problem over which we have enormous personal control!
We do not need to be Olympic athletes to win the race against diseases caused by lack of physical activity. All it might take is a walk in the park (with appropriate social distancing, of course)! According to an article published in the March 24/31 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, your longevity is associated with the number of steps you take per day. In this study of almost 5000 people over age 40, those on the low end, who took less than 4000 steps per day, had a death rate over 10 times higher than those people who took more than 8000 steps per day. Interestingly, the researches did not find a link between mortality and exercise intensity. In other words, your walking pace does not seem to matter.
Here are the three step levels measured in the study and the results:
<4000 steps/day=76.7 deaths per 1000 people per year
4001-7999 steps/day=21.4 deaths per 1000 people per year
8000-11,999 steps/day=6.9 deaths per 1000 people per year
As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” One consequence of the pandemic and resulting shutdown of businesses is that many of us have more time on our hands. We can choose to turn at least a little of this adversity into opportunity. With the weather warming, getting outside and going for a walk, at a quick pace or leisurely one, can be a great boost to our health. All you have to do is start, one step at a time!